By 7:30 p.m., the lights at the AmericanAirlines Arena dimmed and the announcer introduced R&B singer-songwriter LaNeah “Starshell” Menzies. The 24-year-old made her way to the stage with two backup dancers behind her – all three clad in baggy pants and cropped T-shirts.
During her second song, “Birthday Girl,” the trio performed a meticulously choreographed routine to a mashup of 1990s hip-hop hits. They even tossed folded T-shirts into the crowd that read “Birthday Girl” on the front and “#CelebrateLife” on the back. Starshell struggled to jump back into her own song, revealing a discrepancy in synchronicity between her dancing and her singing. Her stage presence appealed to most Miamians, particularly Hispanics.
“I’ve heard her song ‘Birthday Girl,’ and I like it, but I think R&B is in such a critical state right now,” Peruvian tourist Carlos Tremolada. “It’s not the time to start experimenting and mixing it with a Latino element.”
Upon mentioning the Miami Heat, Starshell confessed to the audience that she’s an avid Celtics fan. The audience responded with overly enthusiastic booing. She rapidly proceeded to congratulate the Heat on the team’s championship.
Starshell’s set lasted about 20 minutes, but she definitely tried to make the most of her time. She closed with “Superluva.” And before exiting, she reminded the crowd to “celebrate life every day, like it’s [your]birthday and make sure [you]spread love!”
Starshell holds the title of Mary J. Blige’s first female protege and has already collaborated with artists like Big Sean and Kanye West. Her lively repertoire shows great promise and potential for today’s industry, but she’ll need more experience to reach stardom.
Grammy Award-winning vocalist Melanie Fiona followed Starshell’s show with a full-performance ensemble and a more familiarized audience. R&B singer D’Angelo took the stage next, easing spectators into a frenzy of electrifying dance and readying them for headliner Mary J. Blige.
The AAA eagerly welcomed Blige on the Liberation Tour’s second night in Miami. From her costume changes to her light design, the multi-talented Queen of Hip-Hop Soul ended the night with a phenomenal production that left the arena roaring for more.
Celebrities in attendance included South Florida elites like Joseph “Fat Joe” Cartagena, Janice Combs and LeBron James.